Monday, 19 November 2007

Vayetze: Reflecting upon Quality Control

All things considered. It is a wonderful thing to live in a Free Society here in North America. People are free to talk and say what they want. Unlike Driving an automobile, there is no license required, just find yourself a soap-box and speak away.
One of the consequences of this freedom is that since anyone may say anything, and speech is therefore 'free" you sometimes 'get what you pay for it!"

Upon reflection, I realize lately how much absolute nonsense can be passed off as "Torah". Perhaps more insidiuous, how many inaccuracies are passed off by speakers as 'fact" when they are really misquotes or half-truths.


I worked many years in data processing. Usually some sort of quality control went into a product – such as a program, a design, or even documentation. Rarely was something written without texting or without some kind of peer review. At any rate, most errors were readily discovered by users, often accompanied by embarrassing results.


One of the early mis-steps I heard years ago. A member of my old Congregation [viz. COS] would fill me every Friday night on our way home from shul. He attended a local parsha class and would share with me some of the thoughts of the weekly speaker. This one week, he told me a D'var Torah re: Vayetze that it was the ONLY Weekly Sidrah that had no [i.e. zero] Parsha breaks. I exclaimed: "That is no true! Parshas Mikketz ALSO has zero parsha breaks!" FWIW, Mikketz was my friend's own bar-mitzvah Sidrah! The D'var Torah would have probably worked even if were not the ONLY exception but I was disappointed that the speaker was not more meticulous with his facts.

Fast Forward to this past Friday Night. The speak said an excellent D'var Torah all around, but at the end he inserted a very mis-leading interpretation. He stated [as per Rashi who quotes the Midrash Rabbah] that Vayishkav Ya'akov bamakom hahu meant Ya'akov had not slept his entire 14 years at Yeshivas Sheim vo'ever. I corrected the speaker later on, in private. I explained that Rashi/Midrash meant he had not "LIED DOWN to sleep" not that in fact had never slept! The implication is quite far different. Never sleeping for x number of days is an impossibility as per the Gmara re: Nedarim. OTOH, not lying down for a period of time merely presents Ya'akov as an ascetic not as a magician! After all, my own rebbe, R. Moshe Heinemann related to us that he slept in a sofa-chair for a period [a year or so?] whilst attending Lakewood. Sleep - Yes; lying down - No. Today, I confirmed that the Midrash Rabbah Hamevo'ar specifically interprets lack of Shechiva as meaning he did not lie down in a bed any sheinas keva. This can be further confirmed by the lack of Midrash on Vayalen SHAM. Point? A story of Ya'akov's p'rishus and hasmaddah is changed to a kind of Hassidic miracle story by lack of attention to the details!

But I'm not off MY soap box yet! In another faulty transmission, a noted Rav and Talmid Chacham was discussing the reading for Shabbos Hol Mamo'ed Sukkos. In his speech, he claimed that unlike the first luchos, Moshe himself WROTE the second set! Well the passuk says: "Pesal LECHA … v'chaszvTI" that God tells Moshe to CARVE the Luchos and God will write the 2nd set! I avoided correcting this rabbi because I had corrected him in the past and I did not wish to become a pest! But it is a shame the his audience may be unaware of his transmission error.

I was just informed a few hours ago that yesterday someone in gave a D'var Torah that the argument between Ya'akov with Shim'on/Levi was that Ya'akov was in favor of assimilation while Shim'on/Levi were opposed. Even the audience found that one shocking! While we can question Dinah's motives "lir'os bivnos ho'oretz" as possibly wanted to assimilate local fashion into her wardrobe, attributing assimilation to Ya'akov himself is quote a stretch.


Maybe Torah Authors and Speakers should have their writings go through quality control first. In the meantime, caveat emptor.

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,


Sender Baruch said...

Probably his first grade teacher's can blame it on the
"Little Medrash Says"
that writes "Yaakov stayed in the Yeshiva for 14 years and learned so
diligently that he even
stayed up all night to study".

FWIW, my first grade daughter said the same thing this week when
telling over parsha.
My 8th grade son jumped on this very quickly - It appears my son's
education is better
in this regard.

kol tuv
Sender Baruch

Nishma said...

The Midrash Rabbah says Yaakov did not LIE DOWN to sleep

this has been misunderstood as he did not sleep!

Which contradicts the G'mara about a sh'vua that says one will not sleep for a week which is perforce a false oath!

This understanding of the midrash contradicts halacha p"suqqha, and therefore must be a false understanding. Others Yaakov would have been raised as an objection some where in the history of Halachah

We see how misunderstandings can alter the perception of what the Torah is really saying and makes it into "magic"